A late Roman ship locked in Greenland ice changes history, but a wax tablet describing its journey could bring the treasures of the Library of Alexandria back to the world. Treasure is the 9th book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series as the titular hero goes from searching for a sunken Soviet sub to searching for a missing cruise ship with foreign heads of state and then looking for the fabulous remnants of the Library of Alexandria in Texas near the Rio Grande.
The last head of the Library of Alexandria finishes his inventory of the treasures he’s taken to be preserved in an unknown land only for his mercenaries to anger the local barbarians that attack and kill nearly everyone, except for the librarian and one ship that didn’t trust him cast off leaving him behind. Almost 1500 years later, archaeologist Dr. Lily Sharp finds a Roman coin in Eskimo village in Greenland while off the coast Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino help the U.S. Navy find a sunken Soviet sub when suddenly a commercial airliner with the UN Secretary General onboard flies overhead and crash lanes into the ice. The archaeologists, Pitt & Giordino, and the Navy personal launch rescues but find three survivors with most dead by poison but the 1st and 2nd officers killed by the missing pilot, one of the best assassins in the world. Using the equipment on the Navy ship, Pitt finds a late Roman vessel trapped in the ice with the crew preserved along with a log of the ship’s journey and why they were there. But Pitt, Giordino, and Dr. Sharp are sent to Colorado to talk with a Library of Alexandria expert and end up in a car chase after rescuing the UN Secretary General Hala Kamil from another assassination attempt, though an inept one, wanted by an Islamic cleric in her native Egypt because of her popularity. The Egyptian cleric, in an alliance with a Aztec religious fanatic in Mexico, orders his expert assassin to abduct the Presidents of Egypt and Mexico from their cruise ship at a Third World economic conference in Uruguay. The addition of Kamil who wanted to confer with both Presidents and Senator George Pitt, Dirk’s father, which the expert assassin views as both finishing his airplane job and leverage against the United States in the search. Pitt, Giordino, and Rudy Gunn takeover a NUMA ship in the south Atlantic and figure out that instead of sinking the cruise liner, a Mexican freighter was sunk and the cruiser made to look like the freighter for the benefit of satellites then wrapped in plastic that was covered in water so as to look like an iceberg to hide in the Strait of Magellan. U.S. Special Forces raid the ship, killing the Mexican terrorists who had secretly left with the VIP hostages to an old mining operation on a nearby island that the NUMA people were left only to be defeated by Pitt and others barely though the hostages saved. The expert assassin, blinded thanks to Pitt, wanting revenge kills the Egyptian cleric for setting him up for failure while he sends his deputy to kill Pitt. The NUMA computer using a map outline from the Roman ship and the journey log’s description locates the landing spot in Rome, Texas near the Mexican border. The Aztec religious fanatic inspires the poor citizenry of Mexico to gather at the border then invade the town of Rome only to be confronted by Pitt at the dig site then killed along the deputy assassin in a three-way fight before an explosion supposedly destroys the treasure and sending disappointed Mexicans back across the border. It is revealed that treasure was buried in another of the seven hills around the Texas town and that the Egyptian and Mexican religious fanatics were brothers from mixed race marriage of a three generation old crime family with tentacles around the world along with another brother who was being groomed to takeover Brazil.
Cussler takes a cue from era of the book’s publication, late 80s, and eliminates the Cold War cliché subplots instead going for Third World populism as well as religious fanaticism subplots that worked better from a story standpoint, yet the White House political and policy scenes felt like a drag to the story as a whole. If anything the Library of Alexandria element was probably the weakest subplot since beginning with Julius Caesar’s accidental partial destruction of the Library nothing from the original was left by the time Cussler’s “last librarian” buried the treasure in Texas and Alexander the Great’s mummy had probably been moved to an Alexandrian church under the false belief it was the Apostle Mark—and is probably in St. Mark’s in Venice if it was smuggled out by merchants centuries after the Muslims took over. As for the characters, the main antagonist was the expert assassin who was very formidable and almost got Pitt killed from the grave while the two religious fanatics were the typical “evil overlords” who were more secondary villains than anything else. Pitt was an over-the-top ladies’ man, having sex with both Kamil and Sharp, but got beaten up with all the fighting done over the course of the novel. However just because they had sex with Pitt doesn’t mean Kamil and Sharp weren’t interesting characters and showed an improvement of Cussler’s writing.
Treasure improved in areas over the previous Pitt installment through went back in another, but it’s overall quality was on par with Cyclops and the overall story was better. This a great adventure story with everything from treasure, assassins, political intrigue, and daring feats which is well worth your time if you’re interested in a light read over a few days.